Honing the craft: Sound engineer Zeynep Mengioglu on a love of sports broadcasting audio

Turkey's first and only woman working in OBs

Zeynep Mengioglu, sound engineer at HD Protek in Turkey

Turkey-based Zeynep Mengioglu, a sound engineer at OB provider HD Protek, is the first woman to work in an OB van in the country. Her years of growing up around professional audio have helped hone her craft as a sound engineer at HD Protek, which is part of the Saran Media in Istanbul. She uses the Calrec Brio, Omega and Summa consoles and specialises in sports broadcasts.

How did you become a sound technician and what inspired you to go into this field?

My family used to own a sound system company. I developed a special interest in sound as I grew up learning about the techniques of it all. I moved to Istanbul after my graduation and I started working on music entertainment programmes on national channels. I witnessed technology move from SD to HD, then Dolby Stereo started to emerge and back then I didn’t know anything about digital mixers.

In 2008, the Saran Media Group decided to build an HD OB truck for the first time in Turkey. They asked me to work on the installation for that project and then I started to work as head of the audio team. I was very excited about learning about OB truck installation and understanding many new technologies. It was a very important opportunity for my technical development and we worked on many important projects together.

How does mixing for sports broadcasts differ from other types of live broadcast?

Sports broadcasting is very varied in its requirements, meaning you have to deal with a lot of instant changes that don’t necessarily come about in a coherent order. Things happen in the moment and there’s really no margin for error; you have to pick a lot of different audio from a wide range of sources in various locations and use them in a way that makes sense.

In order to respond to these variables, instant reaction, fast working and technique come to the fore. It can be difficult to correct mistakes and a mistake can cause chaos because it is watched by so many fans. You need a lot of understanding and experience to ensure a consistent smooth output.

I think the biggest difference in sound mixing for live sports and a TV show is the difference in the number of variables, and hence risk. With TV shows, everything is planned beforehand, with a fairly tight running order and everyone is pretty much aware of the flow. But with live sports, we obviously don’t know what will happen next.

What have been some of the highlights in your career so far?

The Euroleague Final Four 2012 Istanbul was one of the projects that I enjoyed the most. As the host OB van, our I.S, meaning our international feed, the mix minus and local commentary audio mixing for the match, was heard by many people around the world. This was exciting.

The pre-match running order was really too tight and it was a challenge to adhere to it without any mistakes. At the same time, I had to check the feeds that we provided to other broadcasters.

The intercom system was extraordinary! It was the first important project we worked as a host. We were providing a technical service for many major TV channels around Europe and they were all on our control faders.

Acting as the host broadcaster and technical services truck within the same OB van was sometimes challenging but a great experience. It was a real pleasure to get the job done without any problems. Following this, we worked on similar projects for other organisations, but the first one is always special.

In my career, working with a leading technical provider is a real opportunity. Our production team has worked on many major international productions in the last 13 years and I was there. I need to thank Saran at this point because I feel very lucky.

Among these, working for UEFA, Eurolegaue, FIFA, FIBA, F1, WTA, and ANZAC organisations are some of my career milestones and have been all great experiences for me.

Women make up just 5% to 7% of audio engineers and producers, according to reports by the Audio Engineering Society. Why do you think this is the case? Are you able to share your experiences?

I am the first and only woman working in an OB van in Turkey. I had a hard time in my early years as it seemed my technical knowledge and abilities weren’t enough to land me a job; I also needed to make an extra effort socially to be part of the team. This industry is still very much a male-dominated one and the working environment and conditions are hard for women.

Since women aren’t very prevalent in the field and therefore aren’t available for hire much, the industry isn’t really moving in the right direction. But I believe the time has come and we’ll begin to see more women in the professional audio world.

I think the new generation will be more open-minded and women will start to just do their jobs without gender discrimination. It’s true that men’s and women’s visions and ways of thinking are different, but I believe that ideas can come from these differences.

What have been the key technological milestones you’ve witnessed in your time in broadcast audio and how have they changed how you work?

I think switching from analogue to digital was the most important change. Being able to use a digital routing matrix to patch signals and manage connectivity (rather than having to physically plug in cables to a patchbay) was a revolution; it completely changed the way we work and the way we think about configuration.

The limits of what we can do have expanded because we’ve gained flexibility and speed. Now we’re thinking about IP-based systems and partly because of COVID, we’ve started to think about remote production.

The industry is moving towards IP-based solutions for audio control, networking and distribution. What is your experience with these changes?

We haven’t used IP yet, but we’ve started to think about this for new projects. I do not know the advantages as I do not fully understand it yet, but as far as I have seen, we are entering a new era for audio production, especially with remote production.

These developments have impacted our entire workflow and planning. I think it will resemble learning a whole new language at some point and we will need to learn different styles of production in the coming years. All our existing habits will be replaced by new ones.

How do you see audio evolving in the next five years?

When IP-based systems really start to penetrate our industry, we will begin to use more technology remotely, resulting in less people on-site overall. Maybe it will be something like there will be one technician on-site who needs to install microphones and get these signals via fibre to the control room. We will have fewer, and/or smaller OB trucks on-site alongside fewer staff.

Far more production will happen remotely and it won’t be necessary to be on-site for audio production. Sadly, I think this means job losses will happen because of these new ways of working alongside the use of, redesigned, small OB trucks.
In my opinion, being on-site is important and necessary and full remote production will be difficult to embrace. Though who knows, maybe it will end up being the better way of producing. I guess time will tell.

How is COVID-19 affecting your work at the moment? How has it significantly impacted a recent project that you’ve done?

During lockdown, we thought about how to do remote production with less people and without going to the site. Sports broadcasting in Turkey reverted to normal workflows fairly quickly. We continue our projects following COVID protocols and taking weekly PCR tests, but the cancellation of international competitions caused too many job losses. Many technicians are without work, with jobs being scarce. Plus, most productions have switched to simpler formats that do not need complex technical requirements.

It’s a really strange period for everyone and because so much of the industry has been turned on its head, we’ve had to change the way we work. Though I hope we can go back to our good ‘ole days quickly without any more cancellations and job losses.

When did you first start working with Calrec products? We know you are currently using a Summa, Brio and Omega consoles, but can you tell us more about the projects of what you have worked on?

In 2012, Saran was building its third OB truck. We were looking for a console for that project. Calrec’s Turkish distributor offered us a Calrec Omega console, which we quickly realised would meet all of our needs. Prior to this, we had the opportunity to review different Calrec consoles at IBC and we knew the Omega console would fit with our way of working.

Saran is a very important technical services provider and a rights holder in Turkey for many years. It’s a key partner for many of the TV platforms in Turkey, and the Saran technical team works under the guise of many channels.

For 13 years, I have been a member of this team for national and international sports broadcasting. We work with organisations such as UEFA, FIFA, FİBA, Euroleague, Turkish Super League and on TV shows such as The Voice. Calrec consoles completely meet our needs across all of the projects on which we work; they are vital in our work because they are easy to understand and use.

What differentiates Calrec from other consoles and what are your favourite things about using them?

I love [Calrec’s] easily accessible user interface. I used the track option when working on The Voice Turkey recordings and they were my most helpful buttons. It was the easiest way of sending sources to the recorders.

For the Eurovision JR project, which was in Georgia, Eurovision was mixed in Dolby surround; I think Calrec was our audio teams’ best friend on that production. Strip variations and signal width – using the automatic downmix facility to create a simultaneous 5.1 and stereo mix – are an important feature that allow us to produce different type of audio signals with less effort.

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